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X-ray Free Electron lasers and femtosecond experiments 2024

ECTS credits:



Course parameters:

Language: English

Level of course: PhD course

Time of year: Summer 2024

No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like:

Part I: Week 1, 20 hours at Aarhus, lectures, exercises

Part II: Week 2, 40 hours at the European XFEL and DESY in Hamburg. onsite instruction + tutorial, VLab work + exercises

Part III: Week 3, 40 hours, additional opportunities in Week 3 to perform hands-on femtosecond X-ray experiments at the FemtoMAX beamline at MAXIV, Lund, Sweden.

Preparation: 10 hours course materials reading

Homework: 25 hours prepare (in groups) mock proposals, instruction of review process, review (in groups) other mock proposals and write review reports

In total: 135 hours

Capacity limit: 15-20 participants


Objectives of the course:

This graduate course is for PhD students and other researchers who wish to use X-ray free electron lasers (XFEL) in their research. The course provides the student with an introduction to the basics of the world’s most brilliant X-ray — XFEL and detailed functional view of contemporary XFEL beamlines around the world. This course features an innovation teaching method, using a Virtual Lab software to execute students’ own live experiments at European XFEL Hamburg. Students have opportunities to look inside each technical component and make live adjustment to align X-ray laser beams and collect physical meaningful data for a realistic experiment. It will cover the techniques of femtosecond X-ray emission spectroscopy and pump-probe femtosecond X-ray diffractions. The collected data will be analyzed in computer exercises and compared with real-world published results in the literature. In addition, the course will take place in European XFEL facility in Hamburg, Germany, including an on-site visit and tour in experimental hutches. Besides virtual-lab experiments, exercises, on-site visits, and lectures, students will also learn writing beamtime research proposals and get insight into the peer review process.


Learning outcomes and competences:

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

  • describe the basics of X-ray free electron lasers (XFEL), including experimental concepts and main applications in chemistry, materials, and physics research.
  • conduct simple experiments of pump-probe femtosecond X-ray diffraction and/or time-resolved X-ray emission spectroscopy using XFEL facilities with the support of beamline scientist.
  • analyze XFEL data such as pump-probe femtosecond X-ray diffraction data and X-ray emission spectroscopy data in terms of quantification and visualization
  • compare XFEL with synchrotron X-ray scattering experiments and describe the uniqueness and advantages of XFEL.
  • develop ideas of how X-ray free electron lasers could be applied in his/her own research


Compulsory program:

Participation in 80% course components, including lectures, virtual lab experimental, computer exercises and on-site visit at EuXFEL Hamburg, and MAXIV Lund.


Course contents:

Below is a preliminary outline of the course, subject to changes until course start.


The preliminary course program:

Week 1 Aug. 7-9 (Aarhus University)






Arrival at Aarhus

Lectures: Introduction to XFEL

XFEL science and instrument (Yanwen Sun, LCLS)

Introduction to Vlab (C Bressler, EuXFEL, UUH)

Lectures: ultrafast X-ray diffractions

Time-resolved Femtosecond X-ray Diffraction experiments (theory/basics, VLab, S. Wei)

Vlab Exercises

Lecture TBD

Vlab Exercises

Lectures: ultrafast spectroscopy

Time-resolved-X-ray Emission Spectroscopy experiments (theory, including VLab, with C. Bressler, EuXFEL/UUH)

Vlab Exercises

Ultrafast X-ray correlation spectroscopy (Yanwen Sun, LCLS)

Vlab Exercises

Week 2 Aug. 12-16 (Hamburg European XFEL and DESY campus)

Introduction to European XFEL

XFEL tours (exp hall)






Lectures: analysis of real-world XFEL data (T. Fujita, AU)


PETRA III introduction

DESY Tours

Flash Intro

Flash Tour

Vlab Exercises


Exercises: students work on VLab, download specific data

group work

finish VLlab experiments (analysis, prepare talk)

Finish data collection, start interpretation

Students presentations

Wrap up

Week 3  Aug 19-23 (Lund, Sweden at MAXIV campus)

Introduction to MAXIV

Ultrafast UV-vis spectroscopy, Modelling with KiMoPack

Ultrafast X-ray absorption spectroscopy, Data Analysis

group work

Data Analysis

Experiments at FemtoMax

Data analysis

Experiments at FemtoMax

Wrap up

Homework assignments/exam


Instructors and guest lecturers (TBD)

  • Christian Bressler (Professor in Physics at Hamburg University and Lead Scientist at European XFEL, Hamburg),
  • Shuai Wei (Assistant Professor in Materials Chemistry of Aarhus University)
  • Jens Uhlig (Associate Professor in Chemical Physics of Lund University)
  • Yanwen Sun (Staff Scientist, LCLS, SLAC Natinoal Accelerator Laboratory)
  • Tomoki Fujita (Aarhus University)
  • …TBD


Homework assignment and exam:

4-day homework tasks: beamtime mock proposal writing.



Own Laptop (best: windows-based)
Notebook for notes
Bachelor degree or similar within natural science, technology, or medicine (e.g. basic courses such as Materials Chemistry I, or Solid State Physics, or Structural Chemistry I, or Physical Chemistry, or Inorganic Chemistry I, or Ultrafast Science, or similar)


Type of course/teaching methods:

Lectures, Virtual Lab experimental exercises, computer exercises, on-site visit, hands-on experiments, tutorials, discussion.



  1. XFEL Virtual Lab script (provided by the course lecturer)
  2. G. Margaritondo, P. R. Ribic, A simplified description of X-ray free-electron lasers. J. Synchrotron Rad. 18, 101–108 (2011).
  3. H. N. Chapman, X-Ray Free-Electron Lasers for the Structure and Dynamics of Macromolecules. Annu. Rev. Biochem. 88, 35–58 (2019).
  4. P. Zalden, et al. Femtosecond x-ray diffraction reveals a liquid–liquid phase transition in phase-change materials. Science. 364, 1062–1067 (2019).
  5. W. Zhang, et al. Tracking excited-state charge and spin dynamics in iron coordination complexes. Nature. 509, 345–348 (2014).
  6. S. Boutet, M. Yabashi, “X-Ray Free Electron Lasers and Their Applications” in X-Ray Free Electron Lasers: A Revolution in Structural Biology, S. Boutet, P. Fromme, M. S. Hunter, Eds. (Springer International Publishing, Cham, 2018; pp. 1–21.

Course assessment:

4-day take-home assignment.

Compulsory program for participating the exam and obtaining the grade:

Participation in 80% course components, including lectures, virtual lab experimental, computer exercises, discussion, and on-site visit at EU XFEL Hamburg.



Aarhus University

European XFEL

Hamburg University

Lund University



Special comments on this course:

Bus trip will be organized from Aarhus, to Hamburg, to Lund. Accommodation will be on-site. The cost can be covered by the organizer of the course.



7 to 24 August 2024



Aarhus + European XFEL (Hamburg) + MAXIV (Lund)



Deadline for registration is 1 June 2024. It is open for all PhD (master) students and young researchers, although the priority might be given to students from AU, Hamburg University, Lund University, and their partner institutes due to limited spots. Information regarding admission will be sent out no later than 1 July 2024.

For registration:

Send e-mails to following to receive instruction for registration:


28153 / i43